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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Ah Fall! It’s so close i can almost feel those crisp mornings, hear the crunch of the leaves, and taste those iconic Fall flavors. While most food blogs are going to hit you repeatedly over the head with pumpkin and apples I am going to highlight the not so obvious Fall produce. Starting with broccoli rabe or also referred to as rapini. This orecchiette with broccoli rabe pasta is a little more involved that some of my other pasta dishes (still easy!) however it’s worth the extra few minutes of prep. With the addition of brussels sprouts (another fantastic fall produce), garlic, anchovies, and a whole lot of Pecorino Romano this slightly bitter, but deep in flavor pasta dish might just be on repeat for the next few months.

uncooked orecchiette

Ugh… Broccoli Rabe, It’s so Bitter!

It’s not you, broccoli rabe is bitter. Not bitter in a bad way, but bitter in a “ooo what is this flavor i need to keep eating” kind of way. I admit, the first time i had broccoli rabe I thought it was cooked wrong. How could someone like something so bitter! It took some time and the right dishes to truly love the flavor of broccoli rabe. Years later I have 3 recipes in the line up to highlight this bitter green.

Is there anyway I can reduce the bitter flavor?

If you are wondering how you can reduce the bitterness of broccoli rabe there are a few ways to mellow out the flavor. Blanching and broiling are two cooking methods that can reduce the green’s bitterness. Also cooking it with lemon or adding it to a cream based dish has also been proven effective. Will it get rid of all the bitterness? No. Are any of these methods used in this dish? No, this dish celebrates the bitter flavor of broccoli rabe. However I find that with the addition of slightly bitter and earthy brussels sprouts, the umami flavor of anchovies, and a shit ton of cheese rounds out the flavor.

Can I replace the broccoli rabe with broccoli?

Uh, please don’t. I mean you can do anything you want, and broccoli would fit right into this dish, but let’s be honest broccoli goes with anything.

How do I prep the broccoli rabe?

Start by picking a dark green bunch with a good amount of florets, avoid any bunch that is wilted or yellowing. The bunches at the story can vary significantly. For this orecchiette with broccoli rabe pasta dish cut of the bottom steam, about 1-2 inches from the base. Discard them. This dish focuses on the florets and steams so remove any larger leaves but don’t throw them out! I have a pesto coming this week that will use them. Rough chop the rest until you have 2 1/2 cups worth.

plate of orecchiette with broccoli rabe

What You’ll Need for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

  • Orecchiette – So normally I say players choice here, and sure it’s still your choice in pasta, but orecchiette just works here. Those little cups hold the chopped broccoli rabe and shredded brussels so well.
  • Broccoli Rabe – The star of the dish. Read above on how to prep the rapini for this dish.
  • Brussels Sprouts – Cut into thin ribbon-like strips.
  • Pecorino Romano – Decided to mix it up this time and use Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan. While both cheese have are nutty, salty, hard cheeses Pecorino Romano has a stronger more tangy flavor.
  • Anchovies– Who knew that tiny little tin could add so much flavor. We are talking the ENTIRE tin here.
  • Garlic – Fresh!
  • Chili Flakes
  • Optional Crispy Prosciutto

Looking for other pasta dishes? Try Spicy Aglio e Olio or Parm & Pancetta Mafaldine.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Print Recipe
This cheesy, salty, earthy orecchiette with broccoli rabe highlights and celebrates those earthy Fall flavors.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 3 people


  • 1/2 lb orecchiette
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes 1/2 tsp for extra heat
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tin anchovies 2 oz, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups broccoli rabe 1 bunch, chopped, remove larger leaves, cut off bottom steams
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts cut thin, bottoms removed and discarded approx 15 sprouts
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 3/4 cup grated parm fresh


  • Cook pasta as per instructions in salty water. Drain and place on the side.
  • In a pan over low-medium heat add the olive oil. Once heated up add the chili flakes and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and fragrant.
  • Add the minced anchovies and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the broccoli rabe and shaved brussels sprouts with a pinch of salt. Cook for 5-6 minutes until soft but still have their vibrant green color.
  • Add pasta, and toss. Finish off with grated pecorino, a drizzle of EVOO, and optional crispy prosciutto. Enjoy!

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